Author(s)

Julia WienerFollow

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Paper

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore leaders’ processes of meaning-making after a traumatic event. The study entailed a qualitative narrative inquiry with participants to explore how a leader’s meaning-making of their traumatic experience influences their post-trauma leadership identity. The research question was “How does a leader’s meaning-making of their traumatic experience influence their post-trauma leadership identity?” The interview questions pertained to the identification of a sense of meaning in the traumatic event, the leader’s identity and role before the traumatic event, the effect of the traumatic event on the leader’s current leadership identity, the meaning that was made that contributed to the leader’s growth, and the influence of the meaning on the leader’s leadership. The study provided the participants with an opportunity to voice their liminal journey through trauma, leadership, and beyond. The study concluded with three significant points: (a) each interviewee survived – they made it through their traumatic event and continued in their leadership role; (b) most interviewees noticed having more empathy towards their followers following the traumatic event; and (c) most interviewees believed strongly in the separation between work and home life before the traumatic event, but their opinions differed following the traumatic event. The theoretical framework for the research was Burke’s (1991) identity control theory and Hogg and van Knippenberg’s (2003) social identity theory of leadership.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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Meaning-Making for a Leader: How a traumatic experience shapes a leader' s post-trauma leadership identity

The purpose of this study was to explore leaders’ processes of meaning-making after a traumatic event. The study entailed a qualitative narrative inquiry with participants to explore how a leader’s meaning-making of their traumatic experience influences their post-trauma leadership identity. The research question was “How does a leader’s meaning-making of their traumatic experience influence their post-trauma leadership identity?” The interview questions pertained to the identification of a sense of meaning in the traumatic event, the leader’s identity and role before the traumatic event, the effect of the traumatic event on the leader’s current leadership identity, the meaning that was made that contributed to the leader’s growth, and the influence of the meaning on the leader’s leadership. The study provided the participants with an opportunity to voice their liminal journey through trauma, leadership, and beyond. The study concluded with three significant points: (a) each interviewee survived – they made it through their traumatic event and continued in their leadership role; (b) most interviewees noticed having more empathy towards their followers following the traumatic event; and (c) most interviewees believed strongly in the separation between work and home life before the traumatic event, but their opinions differed following the traumatic event. The theoretical framework for the research was Burke’s (1991) identity control theory and Hogg and van Knippenberg’s (2003) social identity theory of leadership.

 

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